Friday, January 10, 2014

Visa problem may wreck Hull KR signing of PNG pair Francis Paniu and Enoch Makihit

Exclusive by Charlie Mullan

PAPUA New Guinea pair Francis Paniu and Enoch Maki are in jeopardy of seeing their moves to Hull KR derailed by visa problems.

Hull KR unveiled their new signings, Francis Paniu, left, and Enoch Maki, right, at Craven Park in October.
The duo remain stuck in their homeland and have been told it will be a further two months at least before any possible arrival.
Rovers announced they had signed the 24-year-old pair on one-year deals during the recent World Cup, subject to the proviso they would be granted the relevant paperwork.
Obtaining that necessary paperwork is, however, proving a stumbling block, with the proposed moves in real danger of falling down as a result.
Prop Maki featured in two of the three games the Kumuls played at the World Cup, but winger Paniu didn’t feature as they bowed out of the competition at the first hurdle.
Although they arrived in the UK as members of the PNG squad, the duo are struggling to get through the red tape which will allow them to be employed as Super League players.
Those difficulties mean they have yet to check in at Craven Park.
While the rest of the Robins’ squad are being put through their paces ahead of the start of Super League, Maki and Paniu remain in their homeland trying to sort their visas.
One of the most significant dates in the application process will arrive next month when the pair have to undergo an English test.
If they pass the written and spoken test, they will stand a far higher chance of being allowed to work in the UK.
Even if they do pass, the duo will be a long way behind the rest of their team-mates in terms of fitness when they eventually land.
Maki has a number of quality props ahead of him in the pecking order, including Mick Weyman and Justin Poore, who have both played State of Origin during their NRL careers.
Paniu is in a similar, as he has Dave Hodgson, Super League’s fourth most prolific try scorer, ahead of him, as well as the returning Ben Cockayne.
Coach Craig Sandercock is fully aware of the obstacles in front of the PNG pair regarding their visas, and has not planned them into his thoughts for the new season.
If they do arrive, Maki and Paniu are expected to spend their early days playing for partner club Gateshead, who will be coached next season by Stanley Gene in the Championship.
Gene was one of the first PNG players to pull on a Rovers shirt back in 1996 following a string of appearances in the World Cup.

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